Testing rice products: Methodology

CBC Marketplace conducted laboratory tests on 50 different packages of infant rice cereals and snacks for arsenic. We tested 7 leading companies, 7 different infant cereals and 7 different infant snack products, purchased randomly from Canadian retailers in Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto, and sent them to an ISO-17025 certified independent lab (Brooks Applied Lab) known for their specialized testing for Inorganic Arsenic (arsenic speciation testing).

Rice has higher levels of arsenic than other foods, in part because as rice plants grow, the plant and grain tend to absorb arsenic from the environment more than other crops. Inorganic Arsenic is the most toxic form of Arsenic.

7 companies were tested: Heinz, Baby Gourmet, Nestle Gerber, Baby Mum-Mum, PC Organics
Parent’s Choice, and Love Child.

We tested 7 cereals: Heinz Rice, Heinz Barley, Nestle Gerber Rice, Nestle Gerber Organic Rice, Nestle Gerber Oat, Baby Gourmet Creamy Brown Rice, and Baby Gourmet Ancient Grains.

We tested 7 snacks: PC Rice Rusks, PC Rice Cakes, PC Whole Grain Puffs, Nestle Gerber Puffs, Love Child Pat -a-Cakes, Parent’s Choice Rice Rusks, and Baby Mum-Mum.

For the most part, we tested 3 samples from 3 different lots numbers. A lot or batch number is a mark of identification by which the food can be traced in the manufacture and identified in the distribution.

Total arsenic levels were tested first, and if the products tested over 50 ppb of Total Arsenic, the lab performed arsenic speciation testing to determine how much of the Total Arsenic is Inorganic Arsenic, the most toxic kind of Arsenic. The EU limit for Inorganic Arsenic is 100 parts per billion. There is no maximum limit in Canada for inorganic arsenic in in infant foods. When we found higher arsenic levels we tested more than 3 samples.

Results are based on averages of all the samples tested, unless otherwise noted.

Previous research and testing has shown that oat, barley, and grain cereals have much lower total arsenic levels, and our own test results reflected that. For those cereals, we tested one sample each and arsenic speciation for inorganic arsenic was not performed.

At the present time, there are no Canadian maximum levels for arsenic in rice or rice-based foods for infants in Canada.

All testing was performed by the  ISO-17025 certified Brooks Applied Lab in Bothell, Washington, that specializes in arsenic speciation testing using IC-ICP-MS methodology.